Berlin, the city that truly never sleeps. One of the only cities in the world that has a Night Mayor, a real inclination of how superb the night life is and reigns supreme- even over Amsterdam– with the best night life in Europe. The city where parties are non stop, constant invitations to enjoy life, any and every day. Where clubs open their doors on Friday night and only shut them on Monday- a full 72 hours later. The city where new innovators in house and techno rise from playing in bedrooms, to vast warehouses or empty swimming pools. Where one moment you are in a tightly packed dance floor, warm with sweat and body heat, then another in a traditional authentic pub with strong local beer on tap. Or one moment you are sipping elegant cocktails in an opulent setting, another in the basement of an art gallery with interactive installations. Berlin is notorious for its thriving noisy night life that hums to the beat of the young trendy artistic people that live here, all embracing the avant garde lifestyle that Berlin now exemplifies through its regeneration into a cultural hub of creativity.
Unfortunately on my visit here I did not bear witness to the grimy dance floors, the fluorescent lights or the new and quirky music. I came on a school history trip, whilst studying the Second World War, so my entire visit was based on the historical sights of Berlin. Although, please note, I will be back sooner rather than later to experience its night-life- don’t you worry.
Despite only visiting certain areas and sights of Berlin, throughout my entire trip I was constantly told about the historical significance of buildings, of particular sights- small details that one might not necessary find in a guidebook. This was because of the personal tour guide we had, and our history teachers who were enthralled to be in a city which was filled with so much history and played such a pivotal role in WW2. The city is a blend of past and present, authentic buildings resonate historical value, whilst neighbouring unique shops and individual cafes sell food with flair and designs that ooze a hip and modern charm to all those that wear them.
The Reichstag is a fantastic sight to start your exploration of the blend between the two tenses. Once a parliamentary building, the Reichstag played an iconic role in history, and has now been transformed into an ideal venue to experience the entirety of Berlin’s skyline from its glittering glass dome. Brandenburger Tor and Pariser Platz is also an iconic sight, and is widely used to represent Berlin today. Once a symbol of division in the cold war, this elegant arch now accentuates German reunification, the city that now stands together, as one and in peace. The Berlin Victory Column also epitomises success, but largely from the Danish Prussian War in 1864. The top of the statue is also another way to see the horizon of Berlin from a height.
Checkpoint Charlie is an infamous historical attraction, which is originally a crossing point stood between East and West Berlin during the Cold War. Used as a meeting place for spies, the attraction is now filled with a fancy museum and many photographic opportunities with Russian or American hats. Although seemingly now a jovial scene, do remember the distress and despair this site once was a part of. The Berlin Wall is no doubt, Berlin’s most famous sight (second to the nightclub Berghain although that attracts a different type of tourist). The wall is a symbol of the once divided city, the segregated way of thinking and inhumane treatment to other beings that lived in the capital. A large stretch of the wall can be seen on the east side of the city centre where it is preserved as a gallery, used as a political statement to demonstrate the anguish at the past, and the optimistic hope Berlin has to its future. Head to the documentation centre of the Berlin Wall Memorial to experience how terrifying the “no man’s land” was, and how much of a struggle life was like for those separated from jobs, and each other.
The two sites which really struck a chord with me and are emotionally overwhelming is the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, and Sachsenhausen-Oranienburg. The former is a massive abstract artwork near the Bradenburg Gate which represents the vast amount of innocent lives that were lost during the Holocaust. Blocks vary in size and are unevenly set apart from each other, creating an uneasy feeling which represents the loss of human reason. It is eerie walking through the memorial, with rows and rows of grey towering blocks standing around you, the haunting feeling that each mass space represents many lives, which are now as deathly silent as the buildings that surround you. Sachsenhausen- Oranienburg is equally horrifying. The only Nazi concentration camp close to Berlin, this site was used primarlily for political prisoners, and in areas of the camp one can see illustrative examples of torture and inhumane treatment.
Other places I would recommend to visit are; Museum Island, which is a UNESCO World heritage site thanks to its fantastic five museums all in walking distance to each other, the Jewish Museum, which offers an immersion into Jewish culture, history and belief before and after the Holocaust, as well as the Topography of Terror, which narrates the inexcusable horrors the Nazi Regime applied, all in its open-air museum.
As Berlin is such a vibrant city filled with artistic influences and cultural explorations, you will not be surprised to learn that Berlin has over 200 hundred art museums alone. Decipher what type of art, expression, narrative or style you are looking to find and you will most certainly narrow down your options. The most famous choices are the: Contemporary Fine Arts, Klemms and Alexander Levvy.
Although my time in Berlin was restrained to certain regulations and rules, meaning little flexibility on experiencing restaurants, bars and night clubs ( as well as being the young age of 15 so really, I would have not been getting in anywhere). I have been told by close friends, both German and non German, of the best haunts to go to. Of course electro and techno nights are understandably, the biggest nights in Berlin- but do not think they are the best. Berlin is an ideal place to source new and upcoming artists, or party to any genre you want at any time of day, any day of the week. A good place to keep you in the know is this website: joinjack.de.
However, as well as Berghain being the most notorious club – but also one of the hardest to get into if you are not a local, which the bloodhound bouncers can spot a mile off if you are not), head to BooHoo for a mix of R&B, UK bass or twerky pop. Berries for a vast array of Hip Hop, Mint for its all female electronic nights, or Liber Null for an unusual interactive Gothic night which will leave you with a sense of how different Berlin really is.
As I research and revive the memories I had of Berlin, I crave to return, to experience as many art galleries as I possibly can, and join the masses embracing the heaving dimly lit nightclubs and eccentric bars. So when you read this post keep in mind, it is, to be continued with my personal favourite list of after dark haunts.